On July 13, Representative David Rouzer (R-NC) introduced a bill (H.R. 3047) that would require certain welfare programs, including public housing and Section 8 housing, to deny benefits to individuals who fail a drug test or who are considered at high risk of drug abuse. Under the bill, a public housing agency (PHA) or HUD would be prohibited from providing housing assistance without first screening individuals for either having drug-related arrests within the last five years or being at high risk of drug abuse.
Individuals with a drug-related arrest could only receive housing assistance after testing negative for any drugs the PHA or HUD deem appropriate for testing. Applicants who have no arrest history would have to complete a substance abuse screening, typically a questionnaire or interview given in any manner the PHA or HUD “determines to be appropriate.” Based on the screening, the PHA or HUD would determine whether the applicant has a high risk of abusing drugs. Those determined to be high risk could not receive housing assistance.
Individuals who fail a drug test or are determined to be at high risk of drug abuse would be barred from receiving housing assistance for at least one year. In order to be eligible for housing assistance, individuals would have to complete a treatment program and test negative for drugs.
PHAs that fail to comply with these requirements would have their federal funding decreased by 15% in the following fiscal year.
The bill would not require individuals or families to bear the costs of testing and screening. Costs would be covered by money from the public housing operating fund, PHA administrative fees, and project-based Section 8 appropriations.
When introducing the bill, Mr. Rouzer stated, “Most employers in this country require workers to pass drug tests as a prerequisite for employment. The government should expect the same of people who receive food stamps and other federal benefits. Additionally, taxpayers deserve to know that their money isn’t subsidizing a drug addiction, which only leads to a tragic life of dependency.”
The bill was referred to several House committees: the Committee on Financial Services, the Committee on Agriculture, and the Committee on Ways and Means. The bill currently has three cosponsors.
The bill text is at https://www.congress.gov/114/bills/hr3047/BILLS-114hr3047ih.pdf